- iPod touch
Molecules is a free application for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad that allows you to view three-dimensional renderings of molecules and manipulate them using your fingers. You can rotate the molecules by moving your finger across the display, zoom in or out by using two-finger pinch gestures, or pan the molecule by moving two fingers across the screen at once.
The app presents just a few molecules to begin but you can search for more renderings of molecules by tapping on the plus sign. There's also a Color Key that allows you to identify the different elements that make up the molecule. In addition, you have the option of seeing the molecule as a ball-and-stick image or with space filling.
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One of the most difficult things about teaching chemistry is to accurately present what molecules look like. At times we use symbols and formulas, other times it is through systematic names, structural formulas, ball-and-stick models, and so forth. These computer-generated models are beautiful and compelling to look at and interact with. Your students will gain a vivid appreciation of the structure of these models.
This app could be used to illustrate the relationship between structure and function, such as the effect of shape on the polarity of molecules. In addition, this app has the potential for providing an interactive alternative or supplement to using textbooks in the classroom. The ability to zoom in on the molecules and view them from different sides allows students to gain a more detailed understanding of their structure.
On the downside, the app is still limited in the amount of information it provides and not all of the molecules have the full set of information explaining their composition. Most of the selections seem to be complex organic molecules. Perhaps there are other databases that might yield the types of molecules students would more commonly encounter in high-school chemistry.
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